Lord Howe Island is considered to be an outstanding example of an island ecosystem developed from submarine volcanic activity.
The island’s isolation and its varied landscape of mountains, valleys, hills, lowlands and sea-cliffs have resulted in a diverse array of habitat types supporting many distinctive flora and fauna groups. Vegetation ranges from exposed coastal grasses and heath to lush mossy rainforest, shrouded in mist.
Lord Howe Island is home to a variety of unique and endemic species:
- The island has recorded 241 species of indigenous plants of which 113 (47%) are found nowhere else in the world. Lord Howe hosts four species of palms, the most famous of which is the Kentia Palm.
- 207 different bird species have been recorded on Lord Howe, 32 of which breed on the island, including the endangered Woodhen.
- Lord Howe is also reputed to have more seabird species breeding in higher numbers than anywhere else in Australia.
- More than 1,600 terrestrial insect species have been recorded, of which approximately 60% are found nowhere else in the world.
- One of the most spectacular insects is the Lord Howe Island Phasmid, a large stick insect – thought to be extinct, but rediscovered in recent years on Balls Pyramid.
- Lord Howe’s underwater world is equally rich and diverse, with new species being regularly discovered. The island’s waters play host to over 500 species of fish and 90 different coral species.
World Heritage Outlook – Threats
The values of the site are significantly threatened by rodents, weeds, African Big-headed Ants, pathogens (Phytophthora and Myrtle Rust), oceanic warming and marine debris. Other threats associated with the settlement and tourism activity include those related to urban and transport infrastructure, unregulated water extraction and incremental localised impacts on vegetation. Weeds, pathogens, African Big-headed Ants and rodents present the highest risk to biodiversity values of the site. There are detailed plans in place to address these threats; however an ongoing strong financial and management commitment is required to successfully implement these key programs. The proposed lengthening of the airport runway is a risk to marine and threatened species values; however, this could be minimized or avoided with alternate solutions or careful design. Oceanic warming is a threat to marine values.
Source: IUCN World Heritage Outlook
36 years of World Heritage Listing
The Lord Howe Island Group is an outstanding place with extraordinary terrestrial and marine ecosystems. These natural values were formally recognised to be of global significance in 1982 when the Lord Howe Island Group was listed as a World Heritage Property under the World Heritage Convention.
The Lord Howe Island Group World Heritage Property now includes the main island, offshore islets and Balls Pyramid, totalling about 1455 hectares of land. A further 145,000 hectares of marine environment are included in the World Heritage area, with conservation values reinforced in 1998 when the State Government declared a Marine Park in these waters.
The island’s isolation and its varied landscape of mountains (over 800 metres), valleys, hills, lowlands and sea-cliffs has resulted in a diverse array of habitat types supporting many distinctive flora and fauna assemblages. Vegetation associations range from exposed coastal grasses and heath to luxuriant mossy rainforest shrouded in mist. Today, approximately 75 per cent of the island’s original natural vegetation remains intact and undisturbed.
The Island has recorded 241 species of indigenous plants of which 113 or 47 per cent are found no where else in the world. Typical of remote oceanic islands, the vertebrate fauna is largely dominated by birds, including the Lord Howe Island Woodhen, which has been the centre of a highly successful captive-breeding programme. There are 11 species of seabirds, which continue to have important breeding populations. Lord Howe Island is reputed to have more seabird species breeding in higher numbers than anywhere else in Australia.
More than 1,600 terrestrial insect species have been recorded with approximately 60 per cent found nowhere else. The rate of discovery remains high, indicating that numerous endemic species are yet to be discovered.
One of the most spectacular insects is the Lord Howe Island Phasmid, the world’s largest stick insect – thought to be extinct, but rediscovered in recent years on Balls Pryamid, a 550 metre high volcanic stack rising from the sea, 23 km from the island.
In recent years, cats, pigs and goats have been successfully removed from the island. These important initiatives have greatly reduced the threats to a host of native and endemic plant and animal species. In 2017 the Lord Howe Island Board approved the eradication of rodents from the island, with the project being undertaken during winter 2019.
Other significant achievements include a major weed eradication program. Funding of approximately A$2 million from both State and Federal governments has provided the catalyst for an ambitious and rigorous weed treatment program. Local staff and mainland volunteers and contractors have participated in this highly successful program.
The island also has a fascinating history and a culture evolved from its isolation and sea trading links with early whaling vessels and other Pacific nations including New Zealand, Norfolk Island, the wider Pacific Islands and mainland Australia. Today the island is governed by a Board comprising four locally elected Islanders and three appointed mainland representatives including the Chairperson.
Another unique factor of the Island is its current 400-tourist bed limit. This limit ensures an uncrowded and relaxing atmosphere and less pressure and impact on the island’s landscape. The recently adopted Regional Environmental Plan for the Island has in consultation with the local community established a housing limit of a maximum of 25 new houses over the next 25 years.
Lord Howe Island is an iconic World Heritage destination.
Author: Terry Wilson
Permanent Park Reserve (PPP)
The Lord Howe Island Permanent Park Preserve (PPP) was dedicated to protect the unique natural values of Lord Howe Island and neighbouring Islands. The PPP covers 75% of Lord Howe Island, including the southern mountains and northern hills. The PPP also includes Balls Pyramid and neighbouring Islands.
The PPP is similar to a National Park in terms of the primary management emphasis is directed at conservation and preservation of natural values, the main difference being the PPP is managed by the Lord Howe Island Board rather than the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service.
The PPP is of outstanding value for nature conservation, for aesthetic appreciation, for recreation, for education and for research.
There are over 200 native species of vascular plants on the Island. Over 70 plants are endemic to the Island (meaning Lord Howe Island is the only place in the world where they grow naturally). NPWS are currently undertaking a comprehensive endemic plant survey to determine if some of these plants should be nominated as threatened under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. Lord Howe has 129 plant genera in common with Australia, 102 with New Caledonia and only 75 in common with New Zealand. Due to the high level of endemism the Island flora is of outstanding regional nature conservation value.